Alabama Update: Governor Ivey Drains The Swamp; Senator Strange Under Fire

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey was sworn into office earlier this week after the arrest and resignation of former Governor Robert Bentley due to various campaign finance and ethics issues relating to the covering up of his affair with senior political advisor Rebekah Mason. Ivey is only the second woman to ever serve in the state’s highest post, is the first Republican woman to do so, and is the first Alabama Governor to be sworn in by a female judge.

Kay Ivey (Left) Being Sworn In As Alabama’s Second Female Governor by Acting Supreme Court Justice Lyn Stuart (Right)

After the drama of the last few weeks, the Alabama state government was in desperate need of a shakeup, and that appears to be exactly what Governor Ivey is doing. As one of her first acts as Governor, she requested the resignation letters of all cabinet members, and informed them that each of them would have to re-apply for their positions as if they were doing so for the first time. This is a somewhat routine measure for new administrations after an election, but comes as a bit of a political statement in light of the fact that she is simply filling the seat until the 2018 election cycle. She is not speculated to be running for a full term.

Governor Kay Ivey Signing HB16, Ending Judicial Override

Her next action, besides beginning to work her way through the mountain of paperwork and bills that need to be signed that piled up while Bentley was busy fighting for his career’s survival, was to immediately and unceremoniously fire two people. The first of these was Jon Mason, the husband of the senior staffer with which Governor Bentley had an affair. While this may seem like an odd decision, transcripts of interviews that were made public during the impeachment process indicated that Mr. Mason was complicit in the affair and was using it for his financial benefit. Ironically, his position in the state government was as the head of SERVE, the Governor’s office of faith-based and volunteer initiatives. Mr. Mason had come under criticism for being given this post due to the fact that he had no previous experience that would qualify him for it and his relation to Rebekah Mason.

Today, Ivey made her second major firing decision – Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Stan Stabler, the top law enforcement officer in the state. All state law enforcement agencies were recently consolidated under the ALEA. This action is significant because one of the biggest scandals of Governor Bentley’s administration was when he fired the previous Secretary, Spencer Collier. Collier is the one that exposed the Governor’s affair and began the process of removing him from office by filing a wrongful termination lawsuit that made public the accusations of corruption and abuse of power for the first time. Collier claimed that he was fired because he refused to illegally cover up the Governor’s affair and punish any staffer or family member that threatened to do so. After being appointed to the post, Stabler repeatedly ran interference for the Governor by insisting that no impropriety existed and that he was unaware of any inappropriate texts. However, during the impeachment process, it was discovered that Stabler’s statements on the matter were actually written and/or edited by Rebekah Mason, the Governor’s paramour. Governor Ivey has appointed Hal Taylor as the Acting ALEA Secretary. He previously served as Chief of Staff for the same organization.

U.S. Senator Luther Strange

In related news today, State Auditor Jim Zeigler is testifying in a case against U.S. Senator Luther Strange, who was appointed by Governor Bentley to replace Jeff Sessions. Senator Strange, who previously served as Alabama’s Attorney General, has generated significant controversy surrounding the circumstances of his appointment. His replacement to his previous post almost immediately revealed that the office was conducting an ongoing criminal investigation into the Governor, implying a major conflict of interest in Strange’s application to the appointment process, especially since Strange unilaterally suspended the impeachment process against the Governor for months with no explanation while he was still AG. In an explosive interview with US News that came out yesterday, State Representative Ed Henry, who initially filed the impeachment against Bentley, said that he met privately with the former Governor on the day that Strange was appointed:

“I met with Gov. Bentley the day he appointed Strange and told him, ‘If you do this, you will be impeached’,” Henry recalls. “Gov. Bentley’s reply to me was, ‘Ed, we have to get rid of him. He’s corrupt.’ And I said, ‘You’re going to appoint someone who you believe to be corrupt to the U.S. Senate?’ He said, ‘We have to.’ I said, ‘Even if that means you most likely will be indicted or impeached?’ He said, ‘I’m not going to be indicted, I get to appoint his successor.’”

 

Alabama State Representative Ed Henry (R-Hartselle)

In a recent interview with WBRC, Senator Strange blamed the criticism on a “small group of disgruntled legislators” still bitter over his office’s prosecution of House Speaker Mike Hubbard. However, Strange recused himself from that investigation early on, and most of the criticism directed towards him has come from groups that also opposed Mike Hubbard. Ed Henry, for instance, was a vocal critic of Mike Hubbard and helped lead unsuccessful efforts at the time to remove Hubbard from House leadership before he was convicted on 12 felony ethics charges. Representative Henry, a staunch conservative and avid Trump supporter, is known for his no-holds-barred approach to Alabama politics, frequently calling out members of his own party on corruption issues and for violating their campaign pledges.  Henry resigned from the Republican House Caucus back in Febuary after Majority Leader Micky Hammon was re-elected by one vote despite various ethical and potential criminal investigations into his political and business life. After Ed Henry took the events that occurred in the GOP Caucus’ private meeting public, Micky Hammon resigned from his post. Hammon is widely rumored to not be running for re-election to his House seat, which has seen a powerful early contender in Tom Fredricks, an outspoken anti-establishment business owner and Trump supporter. Ed Henry has announced that he will not be seeking re-election to his seat either.

Needless to say, it is a tumultuous time in Alabama politics for sure. The drama could pick up again quickly though, as the Senator’s appointment comes under increased scrutiny and the issue of holding a special election for the seat is brought back up. Governor Bentley refused to do so despite the strong insistence of many election officials that the law said otherwise. If a special election is held this year, Luther Strange will have to run for his seat while these scandals are all fresh in the minds of Alabama voters. This is the case that State Auditor Jim Zeigler is testifying on today.

As for Governor Ivey, we will just have to wait and watch. Hopefully, she will continue to drain the Alabama political swamp and work to restore the public’s faith in their leaders. Much is uncertain about Ivey, the former Lt. Governor and State Treasurer, since she’s rarely had to publicly address any specific or controversial issues while serving. If you want to know more about her background, check out the NY Times’ recent profile and her Wikipedia page.

Note: All persons discussed in this article are Republicans, which is why no partisan identification was made of each person.

About the author: Trey Edwards is a strategy and digital media consultant that works with conservative and Republican candidates in Alabama. He boasts an 87% win record against incumbents and has led multiple successful anti-tax referendum campaigns. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

 

Robert Bentley Proves Mike Pence Right

Yesterday, the Alabama House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee was holding a hearing regarding the impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley. This was one of multiple political and criminal investigations into various ethics, campaign finance, and corruption charges relating to his affair with a much younger married senior political advisor, and subsequent divorce from his wife of 50 years. The Speaker of the House of Representatives had referred to the conclusion of the impeachment hearings as something everyone knows is coming, and had called for the Governor’s resignation – along with the President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Alabama Republican Party’s Steering Committee. By the end of the day, he’d been arrested and pled guilty to multiple charges. He is no longer Governor, having resigned in disgrace.

The hundreds and hundreds of pages of  evidence in the case released over the weekend outline exactly how we ended up in this situation, and reveal just how avoidable this whole process was.

Most of the potential criminal charges relate to the Governor’s abuse of power and use of state resources to cover up his affair and punish anyone that threatened to end or expose it. He allegedly based multiple hiring and firing decisions of top law enforcement officials on their willingness to help him keep his affair a secret. Suspicions among other staffers initially started to rise when the senior advisor in question, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, started spending significant amounts of time in one-on-one meetings with the Governor behind closed doors.

Ultimately, his wife uncovered the affair because of the 70+ year old Governor’s lack of understanding regarding how Apple products work. He let his wife use his state-issued iPad while he used his iPhone on the same account to send inappropriate texts to his paramour. For those of you not reading this article on an Apple device, this means that his wife received the texts as well. With the help of her younger chief of staff, Mrs. Bentley recorded some of their phone calls, and these were what eventually ended up being leaked to the media, exposing the affair for the rest of us to (regrettably) listen to.

We can argue all day long about whose fault the affair is. Regardless, it is safe to say that if our Governor, who we elected on a “family values” platform, had practiced what he preached, we would never have ended up in this situation.

Family values are important. Biblical, God-honoring marriage is incredibly important. But conservatives have become far too willing to bend to political correctness when it comes to actually applying the principles that we advocate for. We cannot stand up and preach Christian principles and the value of marriage, and then be totally unwilling to take basic, common sense steps to apply these principles. We all face temptation to sin, every single day. To refuse to protect ourselves from this temptation is pride, a declaration that we think we are above God’s Word, and that His truths do not apply to us. Inevitably, we will always fail, in one area or another, as long as we go through life trusting only in our ability to resist these temptations when they arise.

This means we have an obligation to seek out and establish accountability in our own life. We are imperfect, sinful people, and we must treat ourselves as such – before we assume the arrogance of forcing that same accountability on others through the force of law.

Our Vice President, Mike Pence recently came under fire for establishing some general boundaries when interacting with other women – in order to prevent even the appearance of impropriety. Not only does this avoid causing rumors, but it ultimately prevents him from caving to the temptation that he will inevitably face at some point in his life. It also sends a strong message to his wife that he considers honoring her as more important than any potential criticism or any consequences to his career.

These precautions are not about treating women as if they are inferior, or about trying to project some kind of moral superiority. They are a humble submission that we recognize our own imperfections, and that we are unwilling to place ourselves in situations where our judgement could potentially be compromised on a regular basis.

Imagine where Alabama would be today if our Governor had put some of the same protections in place for his marriage that Mike Pence put in place for his. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and judge other people for making what may appear on the outside to be odd or close-minded decisions. But we must always remember that our elected officials – just like us – are imperfect human beings. Mike Pence would prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to potential impropriety. We could all stand to learn from his example – especially Robert Bentley.

UPDATED: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley Pleads Guilty To Charges, Resigns

BREAKING: Multiple sources are confirming that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has agreed to resign instead of facing impeachment by the State Legislature, and that he will do so later this afternoon following a 3:30pm staff meeting.

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UPDATE, 2:30pm: The Governor is currently meeting with his staff. He’ll then meet with his cabinet, after which he will hold a press conference. After resigning, Lt. Governor Kay Ivey will immediately be sworn in as Governor in the old Senate chambers.

UPDATE, 2:45pm: HUGE: Rumors from multiple sources that warrants are about to be issued for the arrest of Governor Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason.

UPDATE: 3:07pm: Sources now saying that Robert Bentley has agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges. No word yet on how many, or which ones.

UPDATE: 3:48pm: Governor Bentley is supposedly on his way to the courthouse to be booked before heading to his resignation speech.

UPDATE: 3:53pm: Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has been arrested, and is being booked into the Montgomery County Courthouse.

UPDATE: 4:21: Bentley has been charged with only two campaign finance related misdemeanors (by the office of the AG that he recently appointed). No jail time is expected, and bond is set at $600.

UPDATE: 4:54: FORMER Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has pled guilty to two campaign finance related Class A misdemeanors. No jail time, 12 months unsupervised probation. Has to pay back misreported money & pay fines. 100 hours of community service.

UPDATE: 6pm: Governor Bentley has given his resignation speech and

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This news breaks as the Alabama House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee is currently in session holding an Impeachment Hearing, the conclusion of which is effectively a foregone conclusion at this point. Bentley is also facing potential indictment on a variety of criminal charges from multiple law enforcement agencies. Most of the allegations revolve around the cover up of his affair with Rebekah Mason, a senior political advisor. The Alabama Ethics Commission last week referred four separate charges against the “Luv Guv” to prosecution relating to various ethics and campaign finance violations.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, President Pro Tem of the Senate, and the Alabama Republican Party Steering Committee have all publicly requested the Governor’s resignation before today.

As soon as Governor Bentley has officially resigned, Lt. Governor Kay Ivey will be sworn in as Governor, becoming Alabama’s second female governor in state history.

This would have been the first time ever that an Alabama Governor would have been impeached. This also marks the third head of a branch of the Alabama government to leave office due to ethics-related investigations in a 12-month period. Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was convicted last year on 12 felony ethics charges, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roy Moore was suspended earlier this year by the Judicial Inquiry Committee.

There is no word currently on what deal may possibly have been reached between Bentley and the various law enforcement agencies investigating him in exchange for his resignation.

We have previously covered the events leading up to the Governor’s impeachment/resignation/indictment here, here, here, here, and here.

This story is still developing and will be updated.

 

 

BREAKING: Alabama Ethics Commission Refers Four Charges Against Governor Bentley To Prosecutors

BREAKING: After meeting for over nine hours straight behind closed doors, the Alabama Ethics Commission has voted overwhelmingly to formally refer four separate charges against Governor Robert Bentley to prosecutors. (Link, Link)

(Recap: We’ve previously covered the events leading up to this story here, here, here, and here.)

The scandal-ridden Republican Governor of Alabama is currently being investigated and threatened with impeachment, indictment, or some other form of investigation from at least four different groups (State Legislature, Attorney General, Federal Prosecutors, and Ethics Commission). Most of the various potential criminal charges are due to his illicit affair with a senior staffer, and the lengths that he went to in order to cover it up. Other allegations have to do with his appointment of Alabama Attorney Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate to replace Jeff Sessions, which happened while AG Strange’s office was actively investigating him on the other charges.

Tonight’s development in this case comes from the Ethics Commission’s investigation, which is due to four separate complaints, which were filed by Jim Zeigler, Alabama’s State Auditor.

Bentley at the hearing today. Credit: Montgomery Advertiser

The four charges as are follows:

First charge (3-1-1): Relating to ethics violations from using public resources to further a personal interest.

Second charge (4-0-1): Relating to using legal fees in an improper manner, in violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. This stems from the use of Bentley’s campaign funds to pay for the legal fees of his paramour relating to the investigations into their affair.

Third charge (4-0-1): Relating to payments given to the senior staffer with which he had an affair (Rebekah Mason), due to the fact that they came from an illegally funded “dark money” group.

Fourth Charge (4-0-1): Referring to a loan that Bentley made to his own campaign outside the window of time in which a loan is legally permissible, a violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

All four charges are felonies, and would carry heavy fines and up to 20 years in prison.

The Ethics Commission acts as a grand jury in matters relating to ethics violations of public officials. They can choose to refer cases to either the local District Attorney or the state Attorney General. They have opted to refer all four cases to the local District Attorney. This makes sense, given the scandal surrounding the Attorney General’s office, as well as the ongoing investigation there. This will now be at least the fifth government agency involved into an ethics-related investigation into Governor Bentley.

This news breaks the same week that the House Judiciary Committee is moving forward on their impeachment proceedings. Their report is due to be issued in the next few days, and may involve additional charges. Rumors are circulating that Bentley is considering resigning to avoid impeachment, but he has consistently denied that those rumors are true.

It’s also worth noting that Jim Zeigler, the State Auditor that filed these now-successful complaints, is widely rumored to be running for Governor in 2018. It’s a pretty safe bet that his platform will revolve around running against corruption.

This story is breaking, and may be updated (credit: @lyman_brian).

UPDATE: Photo of Ethics Commission statement below.

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Congressman Opposing Cruz For Senate Goes On Profanity-Laden Rant Defending Illegal Immigrants

“What the F**k are these guys doing to us in DC?!” – in a live video posted to his campaign Facebook Page, Democratic Congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke is heard repeatedly using profane language to describe his opinions on Senator Ted Cruz and President Donald Trump’s immigration views, followed each time by loud applause from the audience in El Paso, Texas. The event in his hometown on Friday was part of his campaign launch for U.S. Senate to oppose Ted Cruz in 2018. His speech was peppered with passionate defenses of an open border policy with Mexico. He told the crowd several stories about illegal immigrants that won high sports or military honors, at one point yelling “f**k that!” when he told about a hotel that turned away a baseball team of Mexican-American students back in 1949 – a decade and a half before Republicans in Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.

Congressman O’Rourke can be heard bragging about his district’s large population of illegals, saying that he is proud to represent them in Washington, and that cities along the Mexican border were safer than the average city elsewhere in the United States. In describing people who crossed the Mexican border illegally, he stated, “Let’s be under no illusion – they come to make sure that all of us – this country – that we get ahead. And that’s why we’re special in El Paso, Texas.”  He wrapped up his fiery speech with a passionate disclaimer for why he was running for Senate: “so that we can have the best f**king answer moving forward for our kids!”

 

The crowd, who can repeatedly be heard chanting “No More Cruz!”, laughing at any mention of ISIS, and booing President Trump and the Senator, cheered loudest after each time the Democratic Congressman used a curse word. People in attendance can be heard referring to President Trump as “Cheeto Hitler” and declaring that the wall along the border would be built “over my dead body!”

Congressman O’Rourke is a former tech business owner and Punk Rock guitarist and vocalist, and has been arrested twice – once in 1995 for breaking and entering, and once in 1997 for driving drunk. He was not convicted on either charge, but the DUI charge was only dismissed because he completed a program for people caught driving under the influence of alcohol. Not as much is known about the 1995 charge, which he explains away as a college prank gone bad. He was elected to Congress in 2012 after defeating an incumbent Democrat.

You can watch the Congressman’s entire video on his own Facebook Page here. Be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts.

What do you think about this story? Share it on Twitter or Facebook with your thoughts and tag The @Resurgent!

Dem State Senator: “Go To Hell With Your Guns!”

In a debate today on the floor of the Arkansas State Senate over SB 724, which would ban concealed carry inside college stadiums, State Senator Stephanie Flowers got a little heated:

Video Credit: @TheJayBir on Twitter

According to the Arkansas Times, Senator Flowers, a Democrat, was responding to Senator Trent Garner’s comments about the “God-given” right to carry a gun. Senator Garner is a Republican.

Ultimately, the bill passed the Arkansas Senate and House, and will be law.

UPDATE: Watch Senator Flowers’ entire speech here (via ArkansasMatters.com).

What do you think about Senator Flowers’ angry comments? Was she justified, or out of control? Let us know by sharing this article on Twitter with your thoughts and tagging @Resurgent.

JUST IN: Rep. Rogers (R-AL) Files Bill To Fund Border Wall By Taxing Illegal Immigrants

Representative Mike Rogers – a Republican representing Alabama’s Third District, has just filed a bill designed to jump start funding for Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

HR 1813, also called the Border Wall Funding Act of 2017, would impose a 2% fee on all money being sent across the border by wire transfer to countries south of the United States. According to Representative Rogers’ press release, Mexico alone received over $24 Billion via this method in 2014, and other countries received over 15% of their total national GDP from these international money transfers from the United States.

“President Trump has made it very clear that he intends to complete a wall along our Southern border. As a senior member of the Homeland Security committee, I have long supported the border wall, which will protect Americans.”

“In order to jumpstart the funding of the wall, I have introduced a bill to impose a 2% fee on remittances sent south of the border. This bill is simple – anyone who sends their money to countries that benefit from our porous borders and illegal immigration should be responsible for providing some of the funds needed to complete the wall. This bill keeps money in the American economy, and most importantly, it creates a funding stream to build the wall,”

– Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL03)

There are not currently any estimates as to exactly how much money this proposal would raise.

What do you think about this proposal? Do you support or oppose this bill? Let us know by sharing this article on Twitter with your thoughts and tagging @Resurgent.

BREAKING: Impeachment Hearing Set For Alabama Governor Robert Bentley

BREAKING: The Special Counsel for the Alabama House of Representatives’ Impeachment Committee Jack Sharman has released a tentative schedule for the impeachment hearings against Robert Governor Bentley on charges relating to his misuse of state property in the course of covering up his affair with senior political advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

According to a live Twitter broadcast by ABC 33/40, this is the tentative schedule for the proceedings:

  • April 7 – Report Released
  • April 10th – Witnesses Called, Case Presented to Committee
  • April 11th – Governor calls witnesses, presents case to committee
  • April 14th – Summations
  • One week for Governor Bentley to submit a written letter to the committee
  • May 1st – Committee votes on whether or not to present articles of impeachment
  • May 4th – Articles of impeachment presented to House
  • May 9th – House votes on articles of impeachment

If the House approves the articles of impeachment, a special trial will be held by the Alabama State Senate. The Governor’s lawyers are insisting that this process is a violation of the Governor’s Due Process rights.

There is very little precedent in Alabama for impeaching a statewide official, and the law has historically been extremely vague on the matter. Last year, a state constitutional amendment was passed that clarified the number of votes necessary for impeachment – two thirds of state senators present and voting. No constitutional officer in Alabama has faced impeachment since 1915. Then, it was Secretary of State John Purifoy, who was accused of bribery. The motion failed. No elected official currently alive in Alabama has ever participated in an impeachment hearing, which has made this an extremely long and complicated process.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall confirmed back in February that a special prosecutor had been appointed to investigate Governor Bentley on corruption and ethics charges. My sources in Montgomery tell me that the grand jury has been meeting for quite some time now, and that there may be some shocking and unexpected developments later this year. This investigation is entirely separate from the impeachment proceedings, and may involve additional charges – possibly including some related to the Governor’s appointment of former Attorney General Luther Strange to replace Senator Jeff Sessions. There is also speculation that charges may be issued based on Governor Bentley’s use of campaign funds to pay the legal fees of Rebekah Mason – payments which Republican Secretary of State John Merrill insists were illegal.

However, there may be yet another development. Despite the best efforts of the Governor’s office to squash the rumors, there is wide speculation that he plans on resigning before the impeachment proceedings are given a chance to move forward. The justification for doing so would supposedly be health-related, as he recently spent a short time in the hospital for what was then claimed to be a “routine” medical procedure.

While this move would protect Governor Bentley from impeachment, it would likely have no bearing on any official criminal charges that may be filed by the Attorney General’s office or any other branch of law enforcement. Regardless of how he leaves the Capitol, there is hardly anyone in Montgomery that I have spoken to that believes that Robert Bentley will still be Governor in 30-60 days. In the case of his exit, Lt. Governor Kay Ivey will become the second female Governor of Alabama in history.

What do you think about this development? Share this article on Twitter and tag @resurgent with your thoughts.

Trey Edwards is a conservative Republican campaign consultant and strategist in Alabama. Follow him on Twitter @treyedwardsal.

 

Credit: Lauren Walsh ABC 33/40